August 8: Syndicated Columnist Michelle Malkin Explains a Neglected Loophole That Let Immigrants In The Country Without Visas

This is a partial transcript from Hannity & Colmes, August, 8 2003  that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order a transcript of the entire show.

MONICA CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: I'm Monica Crowley sitting in tonight for Sean Hannity.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) has temporarily suspended travel programs that allow foreigners to fly into the country without U.S. visas. Isn't that a step in the right direction? Well you would think so. Joining us is syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. Michelle, welcome.

MICHELLE MALKIN, COLUMNIST: Thank you, Monica.

CROWLEY: Well, you know, Michelle, I've been following your tremendous and extraordinary work on the immigration issue. And you would think that after 9/11 that loopholes like this would have been closed a long time ago, and yet the DHS only put out this advisory last week. What took them so long?

MALKIN: Well, it took more than a year for them to finally decide to close down temporarily some of these visa free programs. And they said that they got specific credible intelligence that terrorists might be exploiting this program.

And it was probably Khalid Mohammed who's in custody and…well one of the lead Al Qaeda (search) operatives, who blabbed and said, well you know, you know that program that provides big back door for terrorists flying into this country who don't have to get screened for visas? Well we were thinking of sending teams of you know five hijackers through that program, and then all of the sudden someone said holy cow at Homeland Security and shut it down.

But here's the bad news. The bad news is that the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, the INS, the Social Security Administration, the FBI and the Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force all knew that this program was being exploited specifically by suspected terrorists.

And I sat next to Alan and Sean on September 12, 2002, and had this memo to talk about people who had been suspected of having smuggled middle easterners. Some of whom showed up on State Department's watch list who were using these very programs to get into Los Angeles International Airport, walk out of the airport, and disappear to do God knows what.

CROWLEY: Well, you wrote a column today about how that ring that was smuggling in these illegals into LAX, was also getting them fraudulent social security cards. And we haven't been able to track these people right? We have no idea where they are in this country.

MALKIN: That's right. A majority of them still haven't been tracked down. And the Social Security Administrations and the US Attorney's office in Los Angeles have been trying to do their job and get these people. But most of them are Middle Easterners, and I did post on the Web site ddare.com a list of nearly 1,000 of these illegal aliens who were smuggled through this visa-free travel program into LAX. And that's just one airport. One airport.

CROWLEY: Michelle, why is this suspension of this visa…travel without visa program, why is the suspension only temporary? Why aren't they making this permanent?

MALKIN: Well, the bottom line is that there are to many people in this country in both political parties who put profits ahead of National Security (search). And we've got a $600 billion travel industry, tourism industry, and airline industry that depends on programs like this to ram as many tourists into the country to service their cash cows. And they could care less if among the throngs of people that are coming into this country without visas are the next Mohammed Attas, and Hani Hanjours.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Michelle, you've done some groundbreaking work on this issue. I congratulate you. You've done some wonderful columns, and wonderful reporting on this. As far back as a year ago, long before your current column, and they haven't listened to you.

And now this program that Monica mentioned, the transit without a visa program, and they’re closing it. And Tom Ridge is calling it a small door, when as you point out, five million people over three years, five percent of foreign nationals entering this country have used by plane, have used this program. Where's the accountability here? Is it Tom Ridge? Is it George W. Bush? Where is the accountability, and who should fall on this sword?

MALKIN: Well, whoever it was that specifically decided, even after they knew about the exploitation of this program by suspected terrorists to keep it alive, that person's head should roll. But unfortunately not enough heads roll at Homeland Security, or in the justice department for that matter.

COLMES: Well, you claimed that...

MALKIN: I do have to say ...

COLMES: ... I want to say, you're claiming in your column, and this is a serious claim, you're claiming that Tom Ridge is assuring travel industry that he will not close this what he calls small door entirely. Are you suggesting that Tom Ridge is in the pocket the travel industry, and that he's more sympathetic to them then to the security needs of this country?

MALKIN: Well, I'm saying that the bureaucracy of Homeland Security, whether it's under a Republican or a Democrat, is subject to a lot of pressures by these profiteers. And you know, for the most part I think the Bush Administration has done a good job of reacting to that and putting National Security first. But it is in a question and answer pamphlet that's being passed around now, by the Homeland Security Department soliciting feedback from the airline industry about whether or no they should preserve the program.

COLMES: In my view, this has been a problem throughout this administration. Whether it's the energy industry, the gas industry, the petroleum industry, and in this case the travel industry where they appear to be very corporation and industry friendly. Sometimes at the expense of other priorities. And this case, what could be the safety of our country. Would you agree with that assessment?

MALKIN: Well, I'm not going to turn it into a partisan thing Alan. As I say ...

COLMES: Well, they’re the ones in power. They're the administration.

MALKIN: …come in all colors, all shapes and sizes, and all parties. I think the Republican Administration is doing a hell of a lot better than any Democrat Administration would. But I think you know, we've got to close the back door certainly, and all these front doors as well.

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